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8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
(with hymns, no choir)

10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
(with full choir, hymns)

7:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist

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Christ Church

Our church, restrooms and meeting space are handicap accessible.

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Sermon by our Minister of Music
A sermon preached by Barbara Bruns, Minister of Music at Christ Church Andover on August 9, 2015

Please click on the blue arrow at the bottom of this column to listen to the sermon.

O God --- “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Amen.

Sometime in late June, our rector, Michael Hodges, called me into his office to talk about something. He got right to the point and asked,

“Barbara, you can say NO, and don’t go jumping off a cliff, but would you be willing to give the sermon on one of the Sundays in August while I am away on vacation?”

My face lit up…  I have been playing for church services almost every Sunday since I was 13 years old, and never have I been asked to preach!!  Music has always been my medium for telling the Biblical story and preaching the Gospel.  Can I put into words – without the aid of music – that which is the ground and source of all my being?

The Jewish theologian and political activist, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, wrote something about music that has inspired me for decades:

“The right Hebrew word for cantor (song leader) is ba’al tefillah, master of prayer.  The mission of a cantor is to lead in prayer… Music is not an end in itself but a means of religious experience.  Its function is to help us to live through a moment of confrontation with the presence of God:  to expose ourselves to God in praise, in self-scrutiny and in hope.”

In other words, “The mission of a parish musician is to lead in prayer.”

What is prayer?

A few weeks ago our rector preached a sermon about prayer, quoting Anne Lamott.  He said there are basically three essential prayers: “Help!”  “Thanks!!” and  “Wow!!!”  These are great starting points if you are wondering how to pray:

Take a moment and think back over your life. 

What was your first experience of prayer?

Was it at home, in a church, synagogue, temple, tent revival, or summer camp?

Were you with someone – a family member, a church school teacher, a youth group leader, a parish musician, a priest, an evangelist, a mentor?

Did someone teach you how to pray?

Do you pray only when you are in trouble or at the end of your rope?

Do you pray when you see something beautiful in nature?

Do you pray in the midst of the hum-drum and annoyances of daily life?

Do you use prayer aides – such as a prayer book? 

In the Anglican tradition, we have a fabulous resource:  The Book of Common Prayer.  There is a prayer for almost every imaginable situation as well as all 150 Psalms from the Bible.  You may not realize this, but you are always praying when you use The Book of Common Prayer.  Praying is simply being alive with God!

As a child, the first prayer that I learned was “The Lord’s Prayer”.   We prayed it everyday during our family devotions – in two languages:  English and Japanese.  In fact, here are a few lines of the Lord’s Prayer in Japanese:

          Ten ni mashimasu warerano chi chi yo
          Negawakuwa minao agame sasetamae…

          Kuni to chikara to sakae towa
          Kagirinaku nanjino mono narebanari.

I was born in Tokyo to missionary parents who served for forty years in post-war Japan.  They were in the midst of a two-year crash course in Japanese when I was born.  Their first work assignment was in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, where they served as pioneer evangelists.  My father’s job was to go into various towns, seeking Christians.  He would gather together small groups of seekers or believers that were interested in the message of Jesus Christ. They would meet in people’s homes for Prayer Meetings.  As the community of faith grew in size, a congregation was formed that could build a church and call a pastor – a Japanese ordained minister – and there were both men and women pastors!   A pre-school and kindergarten would also be started to draw young families.

We had hundreds of prayer meetings and worship services in our home in the southern, coastal city of Tomakomai. My father or mother would lead the prayer groups – groups of high school students, women’s groups, parents groups, men’s groups….

For worship, my father would lead the service, and my mother would lead the music.  She had a portable instrument – the accordion  - on which she was very accomplished. She could accompany my father in his various travels and lead the hymn-singing. In our home, we also had a reed organ, or pump organ, and later a piano. I cannot remember a time when music and prayer were not part of my life. They continue to be my “daily bread” of sustenance and nurturance.

St. Augustine is known for saying many famous things.  One provocative statement of his is: “He who sings, prays twice!”  Think about this the next time you sing a hymn or spiritual, or sing a psalm, or sing the Lord’s Prayer.  All those words are prayed twice when you sing!!

Another way of praying is taking a verse or passage from scripture that means a lot to you, memorizing it, and trying to put it into practice.  Looking carefully at today’s readings, the verse that jumps out at me is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.    (Ephesians 4:31&32)

Out of this passage, let’s take one thought:  “Be kind to one another.” 

I want each of you to take a minute and think of the kindest person you have ever known.   (PAUSE)

Now take that person, and ask yourself…..

Why is that person so important to me?

How does that person make me feel? 

Can you take the kindness that that person has given you, and share it with others?

I had a profound experience of kindness shortly after I gave birth to twin sons on March 10, 1982.  They were 6 1/2 weeks premature. A couple of hours after they were born, they were taken by ambulance from Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester to Mass General in Boston.   The rector at St. Michael’s Church, Marblehead, where I served as parish musician at the time, arranged for me to stay with the nuns at St. Margaret’s Convent at Louisburg Square on Beacon Hill.

From the convent, I could easily walk to the hospital and be with the babies all day until 9 pm curfew when doors were locked and lights went out for the night. The nuns at the convent were my mothers during those difficult weeks when my husband, Bill, and I did not know if our sons would survive.  Our first-born, Robert, had necrotizing enterocolitis, a breaking down of the intestinal walls. He could not tolerate food.  Our second-born, Matthew, had trouble breathing and was on a respirator.  The nuns showed me such great kindness. I lived with them, I ate with them, I prayed with them. They prayed for our twin sons. 

At the hospital, I chose a special psalm from The Book of Common Prayer to pray for each child, wrote out the text, and hung it on their isolate (incubator). Robert’s was Psalm 139…  Here are a few lines:

You knit me together in my mother’s womb. My body was hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb.

Matthew’s was Psalm 145… Here’s a portion:

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

Three weeks after the twins were born, my own mother arrived in Boston from Japan to assist in their care.  Matthew came home from the hopsital on April 5.  Robert needed more time to heal.  Finally, Robert came home on Easter Sunday, April 11, 1982.  My mother prepared a delicious meal of roast lamb and fresh asparagus.  We had a bottle of red wine.  My husband put on an LP (remember those?) - Telemann’s “Tafel Musik” or “Table Music” to have while we ate our dinner.  We sat around our dining room table – my mother, and my husband …. two of the kindest people I’ve ever known …. with 2 tiny infants… whom we were welcoming into the world with prayer and music.

Years later, shortly after my mother died, I was reading through her journals and discovered that she, too, had chosen a special Psalm for each of her five children.  She had chosen Psalm 139 for me, her first-born, the exact same psalm I unknowingly chose for my first-born child.

This is the mystery and the power and the healing miracle of prayer. 

Let us pray.

O God --- “Give us this day, our daily bread.”  AMEN.

Last Published: August 11, 2015 10:56 AM